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Fatah Fades into Irrelevance

Nov. 22 2016

Next week, some 1,400 people will gather in Ramallah for the Fatah party’s Seventh General Congress. Fatah dominated the PLO for decades under the leadership of Yasir Arafat, and now controls the Palestinian Authority. But the organization, writes Elliott Abrams, has alienated most of the Sunni Arab countries that were once its patrons—and that have recently been improving their ties with Israel. It is also unpopular with its own people, and is poised to fade into irrelevance:

The apparatchiks gathered [for the congress] will elect members of the movement’s two most powerful bodies, the Central Committee and the Revolutionary Council. . . . [J]ust reflect for a moment over those names. . . . The terms are relics of the movement’s pro-Soviet past and of its birth during the cold war. And Fatah has completely failed to make the change to becoming a modern political party. The old Arafat machine remains a corrupt system dominated by a few aging figures, with Mahmoud Abbas, now age eighty-two—Palestinian Authority president, PLO chairman, and Fatah chairman—at the top.

Moreover, Fatah and the Palestinian Authority are completely at odds with the Arab world’s most important governments, in part over Abbas’s banning of his rival Mohammed Dahlan. . . .

Abbas, despite his age, has no plans to lay down the reins—ever. . . . Meanwhile, in the West Bank, the PA-PLO-Fatah system is increasingly repressive, destroying freedom of the press and using the PA security forces against perceived enemies.

Read more at Pressure Points

More about: Arab World, Fatah, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, PLO, Politics & Current Affairs, Yasir Arafat

 

The Future of a Free Iran May Lie with a Restoration of the Shah

June 25 2018

Examining the recent waves of protest and political unrest in the Islamic Republic—from women shunning the hijab to truckers going out on strike—Sohrab Ahmari considers what would happen in the event of an actual collapse of the regime. Through an analysis of Iranian history, he concludes that the country would best be served by placing Reza Pahlavi, the son and heir of its last shah, at the head of a constitutional monarchy:

The end of Islamist rule in Iran would be a world-historical event and an unalloyed good for the country and its neighbors, marking a return to normalcy four decades after the Ayatollah Khomeini founded his regime. . . . But what exactly is that normalcy? . . .

First, Iranian political culture demands a living source of authority to embody the will of the nation and stand above a fractious and ethnically heterogenous society. Put another way, Iranians need a “shah” of some sort. They have never lived collectively without one, and their political imagination has always been directed toward a throne. The constitutionalist experiment of the early 20th century coexisted (badly) with monarchic authority, and the current Islamic Republic has a supreme leader—which is to say, a shah by another name. It is the height of utopianism to imagine that a 2,500-year-old tradition can be wiped away. The presence of a shah, [however], needn’t mean the absence of rule of law, deliberative politics, or any of the other elements of ordered liberty that the West cherishes in its own systems. . . .

Second, Iranian political culture demands a source of continuity with Persian history. The anxieties associated with modernity and centuries of historical discontinuity drove Iranians into the arms of Khomeini and his bearded minions, who promised a connection to Shiite tradition. Khomeinism turned out to be a bloody failure, but there is scant reason to imagine the thirst for continuity has been quenched. . . . Iranian nationalism . . . could be the answer, and, to judge by the nationalist tone of the current upheaval, it is the one the people have already hit upon.

When protestors chant “We Will Die to Get Iran Back,” “Not Gaza, Not Lebanon, My Life Only for Iran,” and “Let Syria Be, Do Something for Me,” they are expressing a positive vision of Iranian nationhood: no longer do they wish to pay the price for the regime’s Shiite hegemonic ambitions. Iranian blood should be spilled for Iran, not Gaza, which for most Iranians is little more than a geographical abstraction. It is precisely its nationalist dimension that makes the current revolt the most potent the mullahs have yet faced. Nationalism, after all, is a much stronger force and in Iran the longing for historical continuity runs much deeper than liberal-democratic aspiration. Westerners who wish to see a replay of Central and Eastern Europe in 1989 in today’s Iran will find the lessons of Iranian history hard and distasteful, but Iranians and their friends who wish to see past the Islamic Republic must pay heed.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Iran, Nationalism, Politics & Current Affairs, Shah